Responding to news that a court in Rostov-on-Don, Southern Russia, has extended until 17 June the house arrest of Anastasia Shevchenko, prisoner of conscience and former coordinator with Otkrytaya Rossiya (Open Russia), a pro-democracy and human rights movement, Amnesty International’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia Director, Marie Struthers, said:
“The criminal case against Anastasia Shevchenko is profoundly flawed, and by forging ahead with it regardless, the Russian authorities are creating an abhorrent precedent. Anastasia has lost her freedom and yet she has not committed any recognizable criminal offence. The authorities are casting their net ever more widely, with another former Otkrytaya Rossiya’s employee, Maksim Vernikov, now also facing criminal proceedings. We call on Russia to stop this increasingly ugly persecution.
The criminal case against Anastasia Shevchenko is profoundly flawed, and by forging ahead with it regardless, the Russian authorities are creating an abhorrent precedentMarie Struthers, Amnesty International's Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia
“The Russian authorities must drop all charges against Anastasia Shevchenko and Maksim Vernikov, and repeal the ludicrous ‘undesirable organizations’ law which is blatantly being used to target human rights defenders.”
On 21 January 2019, the first-ever criminal investigation under Article 284.1 of the Criminal Code (“Activity of an undesirable organization”) was opened against Anastasia Shevchenko. She was put under house arrest two days later.
Maksim Vernikov’s flat was searched on 14 March after which he was interrogated as a criminal suspect under the same charge and placed under travel restrictions.
If found guilty, Anastasia Shevchenko and Maksim Vernikov face up to six years in prison.
Since the law on “undesirable organizations” came into force in May 2015, 15 foreign entities have been blacklisted. The banning of two of them — the UK-based Open Russia and Open Russia Civic Movement — was used to persecute the members of the Russian movement of the same name.